Blinken brings anti-graft message, old Russia foe to Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Ukraine this week he’ll be carrying a tricky anti-graft message and robust U.S. backing for the nation’s response to Russian aggression. He’ll even be bringing alongside a well-recognized face within the Washington-Moscow tug-of-war over the previous Soviet republic: Victoria Nuland.

The one-day cease is meant to reveal America’s continued dedication to Ukraine because it copes with Russia’s help for separatists and a buildup of troops alongside its jap border, in addition to to press Kyiv on corruption. It comes at a time of heightened U.S. tensions with Russia not solely on Ukraine, but additionally due to U.S. criticism of Russia over human rights, hacking and interference in elections. Both nations just lately ordered tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.

Yet past these main points, the mere presence in Kyiv of Nuland, now the No. 3 State Department official, is probably going to irritate Russia. A Russia hawk, Nuland is reviled by the Kremlin and was a primary goal of Moscow’s assaults on the U.S. throughout Ukraine’s 2013-14 revolution and Russia’s annexation of Crimea when she served as assistant secretary of state for Europe throughout the Obama administration.

Blinken stated Monday in London that he would use the go to to present “our unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” Other officers have stated he would additionally press on institutional reform and anti-corruption measures. “There is a lot of hard work to be done to ensure a brighter future for all Ukrainians,” the highest U.S. diplomat for Europe, Phillip Reeker, stated final week.

But Blinken’s journey additionally comes on the heels of a Ukraine-related FBI raid on former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and renewed questions in regards to the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine that led to the firing of a U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and laid the inspiration for GOP assaults towards President Joe Biden.

The East-West battle for affect and standing in Ukraine has been a recurrent theme because the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Nuland’s advocacy for reform-minded, pro-Western Ukrainian politicians incurred the Kremlin’s wrath.

A career diplomat who retired from the overseas service slightly than serve within the Trump administration, Nuland drew Moscow’s ire and accusations of meddling for showing at an opposition rally in Kyiv’s Maidan sq. throughout the rebellion that finally overthrew Ukraine’s pro-Russia chief Viktor Yanukovych.

But even whereas serving as State Department spokeswoman underneath Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Nuland, who goes by her nickname “Toria,” was a frequent thorn in Moscow’s facet, recurrently chiding Russia for its insurance policies. That prompted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to comment on her departure from the spokeswoman’s position after John Kerry took over as President Barack Obama’s high diplomat in 2013.

“My first trip after Toria left her post as spokesperson, Foreign Minister Lavrov looked at my staff, and he said to me, ‘John, I see you finally fired that Toria Nuland’,” Kerry stated to laughter at her swearing-in ceremony for assistant secretary of state for Europe. ”And I took nice pleasure in him and saying, ‘No, I promoted her.’”

Then got here the notorious cellphone name, a recording of which was leaked by Russian intelligence companies, by which Nuland derided the European Union’s hesitancy in makes an attempt to mediate a decision to the Ukraine disaster. “F – – – the EU,” Nuland stated within the name with then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.

The leak of the decision went viral and was extensively seen as a Russian try to break up the U.S. from its European companions on Ukraine. But, whereas it did trigger a media stir, the U.S. and Europe remained typically united of their positions, Russia discovered a brand new goal for its hostility, Nuland’s successor as spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, who’s now Biden’s press secretary, and he or she carried on in her position till Trump’s election in 2016.

Now, after an absence of 4 years, and eight years after Kerry teased Lavrov about Nuland’s elevation within the ranks, she’s been promoted once more: undersecretary of state for political affairs, the place she’ll take pleasure in appreciable affect in coverage choices about Europe and elsewhere.

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